"I’m sorry." They’re the two words we long to hear our kids say when they’ve blown it and the two words we struggle to say back to them.
We can accept that our children make mistakes, and when they admit their mistakes we don’t respect or love them any less. But for some reason admitting to our children that we’ve make a mistake causes questions to flood our heart.
Will they still respect me?
Will they ignore me now?
Will they still look up to me?
Will they trust what I say?
Does this make me weak?
Am I credible anymore?
Saying the questions out loud sounds silly. An overreaction, really. However, I would venture to guess, you’ve asked at least one of them at least one time.
They will trust you even more.
They will pay closer attention.
You will become more credible, stronger and the one they can safely look up to when they need to offer up their own apology.
I hurt one of my children deeply recently. I didn’t mean to. There aren’t enough words to express how I love him and how awful I felt when I realized what I had done. The moment leaves you with two options: say “I’m sorry” and ask for forgiveness, or jeopardize your relationship with your child, knowing it could leave a mark that lasts a lifetime.
How do you say “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” to your child?
Exactly like that. You say it exactly like you would say it to anyone else.
And then you let God be God.
If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need Jesus. He could have stayed nestled up in heaven instead of nailed to a cross. An apology creates the space for the Holy Spirit to move into those broken places and heal them. It teaches our children how to seek healing for themselves.
An apology admits our own depravity and shows our need. It gives our children freedom to risk and try new things. It breeds confidence and humility. It gives our kids the map back home if the plan doesn’t work out exactly like they thought it would.
Much like the son Jesus tells us about in Luke:
So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. — Luke 15:20
When we ask for forgiveness, we gift our children with knowing they can ask, too. We teach them to expect that we'll be running toward them with an embrace, and so will their Father in heaven.